Rules of Baccarat

For a card game played with only two hands and never more than three cards per hand, the rules of Baccarat can seem quite confusing to newcomers. Part of the confusion stems from all the variations available, from Chemin de Fer to Mini-Baccarat, but there are similarities that, once known, make all forms of the game rather easy to learn and play.

Wagering Rules

Of primary importance, there only three types of wagers that can be made in most versions of Baccarat: a bet on the Player hand to win, a bet on the Banker hand to win, or a bet on the two hands to Tie. One exception is any game in which a “side bet” is offered, such as the “Dragon Bonus,” which pays out if the selected hand, Player or Banker, wins by four or more points or a “natural.”

The House sets the wagering limits, both minimum and maximum, for each of its Baccarat tables. Bets are made by placing chips directly on the table areas marked Player, Banker, or Tie in front of each participant. Winning wagers on the Player hand pay 1-to-1 or “even money.”

Winning wagers on the Banker hand also pay even money, but the House deducts a small commission, usually 5%, from the payout. Should the two hands tie, neither bet wins. However, any wagers made on “Tie” will pay 8-to-1 or 9-to-1, depending on the House rules.

Basic Rules of Play

In most Baccarat games played today, eight decks of 52 cards are used. Each card has a designated point value, with the Ace counting as one point, the 2 through 9 counting at face value, and the 10 and all faces cards (King, Queen, and Jack) counted as zero.

The total value of a hand is the sum of the values of all cards it contains. If the total is ten or greater, the digit in the tens column is dropped—a process known as Modelo 10. For example, if a Baccarat hand contains a 7 and an 8, its total value is five points, not fifteen. A hand containing a 2, a 3, and a 7 is worth two points, not twelve.

At the start of a new shoe, the Dealer turns over a card, and its Baccarat value determines how many cards the Dealer will burn—i.e., two cards for a 2 or seven cards for a 7, but ten cards for a 10 or a face card, not zero. Following the burn, the Dealer will insert a “cut card” at least 16 cards from the end of the shoe. When the cut card appears during play, the current hand will be played out and a new shuffle will follow.

Bets must be placed prior to each deal of the cards. A single round of play is known as a “coup,” and the cards used in each hand are discarded in a collecting area at the center of the table following each coup. In many casinos, Baccarat playing cards are used only once and then destroyed.

Rules for Drawing Cards

Whether or not the Player or Dealer may take a third card is an attempt to improve the hand’s value is determined by a strict set of drawing rules. Perhaps the easiest rule and most important rule to remember is that if either hand gets a “natural” total of 8 or 9 on the first two cards, then both hands must stand; no cards may be drawn.

Assuming there are no naturals, the Player hand has the first opportunity to draw, and again strict rules must be followed. If the Player hand totals four points or less, then a third card must be drawn. If it totals six or seven points, no card may be drawn. If it totals exactly five, most House rules require a draw, while others give the Player a choice of whether to draw or not.

Next, the Banker hand has an opportunity to draw under strict rules. With a total value of two points or less, the Banker must draw a card, regardless of what the Player hand holds. Similarly, if the Banker hand totals seven points, no card can be drawn.

With other totals, the Banker’s actions depend on what the Player’s total is. With six points, the Banker must hit when the Player’s total is six or seven and stand otherwise. With five points, the Banker must draw facing five through seven; with four points, a hit is required against three through seven, and with three points, the Banker must always draw, except when the Player holds a total of eight, in which case the Banker must stand.